Chain restaurants are one of the great things about American eating. No matter where you are, you know that a chain restaurant close by has a great meal that’s way better than you could make yourself at home.
Local cuisine is fantastic, but sometimes you need a little bit of comfort food, and that’s what chain restaurants are there to provide you.
With over 100,000 chain restaurant locations in the United States, you have a ton of variety to pick from.
With hundreds of chains available, where can you go? Some places have excellent reputations, and others not so much.
We’ve compiled a list of the absolute best chain restaurants in all of America. So if you see any of these on the highway, you’re in for a great meal.
20 of the Best Chain Restaurants in America
Read on for our list of the best chain restaurants in America!
When you think of Olive Garden, the first thing you might think of is the endless salad and breadsticks.
Those are critical and great, of course! But if you haven’t visited an Olive Garden location recently, you’re missing out on some great, straightforward, traditional Italian fare.
At Olive Garden, you’ll want to stick to the classics. Lasagna, chicken parmigiana, and the fettuccine alfredo are all particular highlights on their menu.
Can’t decide? Try the Tour of Italy. It’s got all of them on one platter. It’s a fun atmosphere and good food at reasonable prices. What else do you need from a restaurant?
The Cheesecake Factory
If you’re the kind of diner who likes everything and has trouble deciding, The Cheesecake Factory might be your kind of chain restaurant.
A classy but comfortable dining room is an excellent setting for one of the most extensive and most diverse menus you’ll find anywhere. The restaurant picks and chooses some of the best of many cuisines.
When you go, you, of course, have to get the cheesecake. The Cheesecake Factory offers nearly 50 varieties to choose from at any given point.
You can get a slice at the restaurant or take a whole cake home with you!
We start off at one of the best seafood places around, Bonefish Grill.
Each of their 180 locations focuses on fresh seafood and creative preparations. Bonefish Grill is great because it’s versatile; it works as a date night spot or a more upscale family meal.
The key to Bonefish Grill’s menu is their wood grill. Get any of the available fish and have it served to you grilled to absolute perfection. It’s really a treat.
Bonefish Grill also offers a Family Bundle for the family on the go. This is all the mains, sides, salads, and desserts you need for a great meal!
Get yourself over to Texas Roadhouse for a down-home, hearty steak dinner.
Even from the outside, you can see that this chain has a unique Texas flair. With wood all over the place and country music playing, it’s a treat for the eyes and the ears at any of their almost 700 locations.
Those with peanut allergies should be careful, though. Texas Roadhouse serves up complimentary peanuts, and there are often shells around.
When you go, you should really try out any of the steaks. Pick your preferred cut, and the cooks will take care of the rest.
Not interested in steak? They have plenty of delicious menu items at Texas Roadhouse to choose from!
The Capital Grille
Chain restaurants don’t necessarily have to be casual.
The Capital Grille is an excellent example of a chain that feels decidedly upscale.
Each of the 60 locations has a meticulous and elegant dining room and a menu that feels like the best local steakhouse in your area.
If you ever have the opportunity to go to The Capital Grille, do yourself a favor and start with the raw bar.
The Capital Grille strives to bring in the best seafood around, and their team does a great job preparing that seafood and beautifully serving it to you. A must-try!
P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
P.F. Chang’s China Bistro offers diners across America upscale Asian cuisine.
With their commitment to fresh cooking and ingredients, P.F. Chang’s menu is decidedly lighter than some other chain restaurants. And with an ambient and wonderfully-decorated dining room, it’s a complete experience every time you go.
Starting your meal with lettuce wraps is almost a necessity. Served in chicken and vegetarian varieties, you get wok-cooked, lightly-sauced ingredients to spoon into fresh lettuce leaves.
It’s refreshing, light, and terrific. From there, try the crispy honey chicken or shrimp. They’re two of the dishes that put P.F. Chang’s into the spotlight.
Since starting in 1968, Red Lobster’s mission has been to serve affordable and tasty seafood to its customers.
Now, with locations all over the United States and across the globe, the chain does just that.
Excellent seafood in a casual atmosphere makes for a great meal no matter what location you go to.
Maybe Red Lobster’s most famous dish is their Cheddar Bay biscuits. They’re so warm and delicious that you almost don’t even need anything else!
Red Lobster is also renowned for its Shrimpfest and Lobsterfest promotions. During those, you can get your favorite kinds of seafood served up in several different ways.
Outback Steakhouse opened its first location in 1988 in Florida.
Now, they have over 1,000 locations across North and South America, Asia, and Australia.
The excellent news for diners is that the Australian-themed atmosphere and huge steaks and mugs of beer that made Outback famous are still there today.
Getting the Bloomin’ Onion is a rite of passage when you go to Outback. An onion is split open, dipped in batter, then fried to crispy golden brown perfection.
Pair it with a horseradish dipping sauce, and you’re in heaven. Pair that with a frosted mug of beer, and you’re starting your meal off the right way.
Check out other popular menu items at Outback before your next visit!
Maggiano’s Little Italy
When you get Italian food cooked well, there’s almost no food in the world that can touch it.
I’m happy to report that Maggiano’s Little Italy has taken that idea of high-class Italian fare and perfected it across the chain.
Italian food often feels like a family meal, so why not try out a Family Style meal at Maggiano’s?
This huge meal comes served in shareable platters, so you can try a little (or a lot!) of the best that Maggiano’s has to offer.
This meal has it all from salads and bread to pasta dishes and proteins to desserts.
Buffalo Wild Wings
To get a sense of what Buffalo Wild Wings is all about, just look at their motto: Wings, Beer, Sports.
This chain is the ideal sports bar, where you can settle in, get tons of wings and other appetizers, a few draft beers, and watch the big sports event on big screens. It’s a great atmosphere.
As you might guess, wings are the star of the menu at Buffalo Wild Wings.
Diners can order traditional bone-in wings, boneless wings, or even cauliflower wings for the vegetarians out there.
On top of that, you have more than 20 options of sauces and rubs to try out!
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store offers up some of the best Southern cuisine anywhere.
Diners can get breakfast, lunch, and dinner any time of the day from the Cracker Barrel menu. On top of that, the attached store offers up vintage-feeling toys, candies, and other items.
You’ll feel like you’ve gone 50 years into the past when you go to Cracker Barrel!
The Grandpa’s Country Fried Breakfast is an excellent option.
It’s two eggs cooked your way, plus grits, your choice of dreamy fried apples or hashbrown casserole, your choice of meat with gravy (go all the way and get country-fried steak!), plus biscuits.
When you’re craving steak but your local steakhouse is a bit too expensive for your tastes, check out Longhorn Steakhouse.
This chain serves juicy, tender steaks in a casual atmosphere. It’s much less stuffy than a more formal place, so you’ll have a great time.
Longhorn offers up nine different varieties of steak for you to choose from, plus a ton of perfectly matched sides like crispy Brussels sprouts, steamed asparagus, and a loaded baked potato.
If you want to go to even the next level, get one of the surf and turf combinations with your choice of lobster tail or shrimp.
Sometimes you want to go to a restaurant that feels fresh and seasonal.
When you’re feeling that way, check out Seasons 52. Each of the nearly 50 locations has an extensive wine list and a rotating seasonal menu, making every visit feel new.
I love to relax with a glass or two of wine and some appetizers, and Seasons 52 is an excellent spot from that.
They have a variety of flatbread pizzas that are great to share, as well as other shareables like slow-roasted meatballs and grilled artichoke, and preserved lemon hummus.
Grab a seat at the bar and enjoy!
Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Carrabba’s Italian Grill is another excellent chain focused on Italian cuisine.
With nearly 250 locations around the country, you’re never too far from a Carrabba’s and their simple but elegant Italian menu.
A bread basket is a beautiful way to start an Italian meal, and Carrabba’s has a great one. Warm, fresh bread gets served to you alongside a trio of sauces: alfredo, marinara, and a Sugo Rosa tomato cream.
It’s a great way to sample the sauces before your entree! Carrabba’s serves Italian classics and does a great job grilling steaks, chops, and seafood.
Everything is tender and perfect!
A meal at Bahama Breeze is the next best thing to actually taking a trip to the Caribbean.
With a tasty menu of Caribbean treats and a lively dining room full of atmosphere and live music, Bahama Breeze is simply fun to visit!
Blackened Mahi or shrimp tacos are a spectacular taste of island life, as is the seafood paella. If your tastes skew more traditional, the burgers are well-cooked and seasoned.
Whatever you get, though, be sure to get one of Bahama Breeze’s cocktails. They’re sweet and packed with flavor. They’re perfect for kicking off a fun evening.
The hamburger is about as American as food gets.
However, diners have tons of options, and Red Robin is one of the best out there.
With a menu devoted to tons of burgers, sandwiches, fries, shakes, and beer, Red Robin delights diners at every one of their 500-plus locations.
If you like classic burgers, Red Robin has you covered. If you want to branch out some, Red Robin’s great for that as well, with options like the Burnin’ Love Burger or even the Impossible Cheeseburger (great for vegetarians!).
Every Red Robin burger comes with bottomless thick-cut fries, which is excellent value!
The Melting Pot
Are you someone who always likes to be doing something? Then you might just love The Melting Pot.
The Melting Pot is a unique chain because it’s fondue-based, meaning that diners can pick from various broths, oils, and cheeses and cook their own food right at the table. It’s truly an experience.
The Melting Pot is great for nights out, and there’s no better example of that than their four-course dinner.
You get your choice of cheese fondue (served with artisan bread, fruits, and vegetables for dipping), a salad, an entree, and finally, chocolate fondue for dessert. Bring your appetites.
Sometimes you just want a classic diner.
However, local diners can be tough to find depending on where you are.
The good news is that, with nearly 2,000 locations, chances are there’s a Denny’s close by serving up breakfast, lunch, and dinner all day long.
Denny’s is famous for its classic entrees. Moons Over My Hammy is a breakfast sandwich with ham and scrambled eggs piled high with Swiss and American cheeses on grilled sourdough bread.
The Grand Slam is a combo of all the breakfast hits. On the dinner side, both the chicken fried chicken and chicken-fried steak are giant.
Chili’s started in 1975 as a Tex-Mex restaurant.
In the nearly 50 years since, it’s expanded to over 1,600 locations worldwide.
The menu has also expanded to include items like pasta and seafood. But diners keep coming back again and again for the fajitas and margaritas that made the restaurant a hit in the first place.
The fajitas are the draw here. Available in chicken, steak, shrimp, or black bean and veggie (or any combination of those), these fajitas are phenomenal.
They come served on a sizzling platter with rice, beans, and veggies, along with guacamole, salsa, cheese, and tortillas.
Applebee’s takes the best parts of the local neighborhood restaurant and offers them to guests no matter where you are.
Applebee’s is a great spot to hang out with friends with comfort food, cold beer, and great cocktails in a casual atmosphere.
The Applebee’s menu aims to please everyone, so you’ll find a little something of a lot of cuisines.
My personal favorite is the Whisky Bacon Burger. A thick patty gets topped with fried onion rings, melty cheese, bacon, and a sweet, smokey whiskey barbecue sauce. Plus, you get a side of fries.
So kick back and enjoy the big game with this one!
20 of the Best Chain Restaurants in America
- Olive Garden
- The Cheesecake Factory
- Bonefish Grill
- Texas Roadhouse
- The Capital Grille
- P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
- Red Lobster
- Outback Steakhouse
- Maggiano’s Little Italy
- Buffalo Wild Wings
- Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
- Longhorn Steakhouse
- Seasons 52
- Carrabba’s Italian Grill
- Bahama Breeze
- Red Robin
- The Melting Pot
It’s easy to think of chain restaurants as having cheap, low-quality food. There are many chain restaurants, though, that are committed to quality and strive to give guests the best meals and experiences around.
Whether you’re on the East Coast or the West Coast, in the North or the South, if you run into any of these chain restaurants, you’re going to get a meal that’s delicious, consistent, and served to you at a great value.
If you haven’t tried any of these restaurants, you absolutely should get out there and do it. While you’re here, check out some more of our favorite chains, including barbecue, seafood, and Southern cuisine. Did we miss your favorite chain here? Let us know!
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